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This post covers the dress code as well as the Dos and Don’ts of an afternoon wedding guest outfit. Read to pick the best dress for the event.

  1. What to Wear to an Afternoon Wedding?
  2. Best Cuts for Afternoon Wedding Guest Dresses for Women over 40
  3. Avoid the Color of the Bridal Party
  4. Which Fabrics Are Best for an Afternoon Wedding Guest Outfit?
  5. Best shoes for an afternoon wedding
  6. Don’t Match the Color of the Clutch and Shoes
  7. What Do You Wear to a 4pm Wedding? Hats and Sunglasses
  8. Dim down the Glam
  9. Be Aware of the No-nos
  10. Afternoon Wedding Guest Outfit Ideas


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What to Wear to an Afternoon Wedding?

The dress-code of an afternoon wedding is semi-formal which calls for cocktail dresses, LBDs or modest party dresses. If is is a formal afternoon wedding go for a cocktail dress or dressy afternoon dress or suit. A dressy LBD is also meeting the bill. This post provides tips on how to best dress for an afternoon wedding.


Best Cuts for Afternoon Wedding Guest Dresses for Women over 40

Let’s assume your event is not for a beach wedding some hours after lunchtime, but a semi-formal event. Fit-and-flare, sheath, high-low hem dresses or retro inspired (read 50s) are great choices for the cut. If you like to dance, go for a dress with a pleated or flare to circle skirt. Be sure to wear bikers in a matching color underneath to not show too much leg when you twirl. If there is a religious ceremony involved, don’t go strapless or spaghetti straps. If you absolutely want that dress, have a little cover-up like a jacket in the same fabric as your dress or a fancy coat.


Afternoon wedding guest outfit with sequins
L.K. Bennett open Toe snake print pumps, garnet necklace and earrings, Hermes collier de Chien bangle, Nordgreen watch, sunglasses c/o SUNGAIT, clutch c/o JORD, sequin high low hem velvet dress c/o Ever Pretty


Avoid the Color of the Bridal Party

Always avoid white unless you are the bride. Otherwise color-wise everything from pastel to gemstone bright colors goes. In the US, find out the color of the bridal party, so you do not choose the same color. No matter which style of dress you will choose, be aware of the colors of the wedding party.

Take into consideration that the photos of the wedding are incredibly valuable memories for the couple. You don’t want to choose a color that clashes with those chosen by them for their big day. If you have no clue what these colors are and have no chance to find out, your best bet is to take a look at the goto color palettes for the year.


LBD for an afternoon nuptial guest look
Ever Pretty Long sleeves ruffle bodice cocktail dress


In many European countries, wearing a LBD to a wedding would not be a good choice. In the US, it is ok, when the vibe clearly states party. Medium sized (size of your hand) floral print cocktail dresses work well too with metallic pumps or pumps in a color of the print or dress for a semi-formal dress code (see example photo below). When you are on a budget, but need a new dress browse consignment stores in an efficient way long time ahead of the date.


example of a vintage inspired flapper attire suitable for a summer 3pm marriage ceremony guest
High-low hem floral print dress with beading and sequins and build-in slip to avoid see-thru. Pair it with metallic flat sandals and a lavender leather or fabric clutch for a garden outdoor ceremony



Which Fabrics Are Best for an Afternoon Wedding Guest Outfit?

What else should you take into mind? The fabric is important as well. For formal and semi-formal events taffeta, tulle, chiffon, lace, jacquard or silk are great fabrics. Steer away from anything to daytime like cotton, jersey, or denim.


Best Shoes for an Afternoon Wedding

If the party is outside, go for elegant wedge heels that match the vibe of your dress. They help you walk on the lawn and not to stick in the lawn. You want to wear the new shoes still after the wedding party is over. Peep toe pumps are a great option with short dresses – read above-the-knee. If the fabric of the dress is matte, go for patent leather pumps in the same color of black. Nude patent leather is a great option for gemstone colored dresses. Blush or metallic pumps work nicely with pastel shade dresses. In the US, a black pants suit with chiffon top or a tuxedo are great choices too. When you want to add suspenders, buy them in the color of your top. You can find more on colored suspenders and wedding Dos and Don’ts at the link.


Stylist tip: When you are a guest at an outdoor nuptial, try to get information on whether you can get to the place with heels. In Alaska, outdoor weddings might require to change the footwear to get there. Tourist are often upset when they see Alaskans wearing outdoor shoes in wedding photos.


When the party is indoors and your feet can’t endure heels for a long time have some metallic flatouts in your clutch. When everyone sits to enjoy the cake, nobody will see that you wear them.


Don’t Match the Color of the Clutch and Shoes

Choose a bag in a different color than your shoes, unless you are in your twenties. On us 40+, matching bag and shoes looks so 1970s and screams Old Lady. A metallic clutch with patent leather heels or a patent leather clutch with metallic heels work. A sequin clutch with matte open-toe pumps all in analogous colors of the color wheel or in the same color family are great combinations. More on ageless monochromatic looks.

For a modern look, don't match the colors of your clutch and shoes. #advancedstyle Click To Tweet


Style blogger featuring a nude and black cocktail dress guest outfit idea for a 3pm nuptial
Fishnet tight, Very Fine Dancesport Shoes, jewelry, mother-of-the-bride dress c/o JJ House and clutch c/o Bellorita. The clutch is both nude and black colors  with the black on the sides and nude on the flap. This means the clutch and sandals are unmatched.



influencer in high low hem afternoon wedding look in monochromatic colors
Side view of the outfit described earlier, It shows another example how to unmatch bag and shoes. Here the clutch has a cork feature while the pumps have a snake print.



What Do You Wear to a 4pm Wedding? Hats and Sunglasses

In the Southeastern US, a hat is a Must at an outdoor afternoon wedding. Go for a style that matches with the vibe of your dress. Take the female Royals wedding style as a guide. The hat should match the dress color-wise or pick up colors of the accessories. When choosing the hat, keep in mind how you intend to wear your hair. If needed, make an appointment at the hairdresser for a blowout or fancy up-do.

Sunglasses don’t look appropriate with a cocktail dress. The combination of sunglasses, long hair down, and large dangly earrings plus a wide brim hat is too much even for the Kentucky Derby.


details of Shire Scala Collezione straw topper
Shire Scala Collezione straw hat with double brim and feathers c/o Tenth Street.


For examples how to create an outfit with a nuptial event suitable statement hat like in the photo above, see my review of this straw hat.


Dim Down the Glam

Go for just one statement jewelry piece like a large cocktail ring, large dangling earrings (photo above) or a statement necklace. You will look your best with the earrings that enhance your personal style and work well with your face features.

If needed, you can determine your face shape with this free online tool.


Be Aware of the No-nos

Avoid the following most often made style faux pas:

  1. Religious jewelry of your own faith when there will be a service of another faith.
  2. Skimpy or provocative clothes including corsages and belly-free attire except for saris.
  3. Jeans and T-shirts, baseball caps, large view-blocking hats.
  4. Casual footwear or bags to your otherwise semi-formal outfit.
  5. Clashing colors with the colors of the party
  6. Sunglasses plus long hair down plus large dangly earrings plus a wide brim hat.


Afternoon Wedding Guest Outfit Ideas

See the following photo outfit inspirations for an afternoon nuptial.

influencer in outfit for a 3pm nuptial guest in the South
Ivanka Trump sandals, D&G clutch, Aspeed burnt velvet gown, pearl and Swarovski crystals earrings  and Shire Scala Collezione straw hat c/o Tenth Street



plus size cocktail dress for afternoon nuptial look
Plus Size Double V Neck Ruched-Waist Midi Chiffon Dress. This plus size dress looks also great in navy blue, dusty blue, dusty navy, cream, yellow, burgundy and burned orange.



Additional Information on Afternoon Weddings to Consider

While the above tips apply for all kind of afternoon weddings there may be additional points to consider. For instance, when the location is a sports field, look for less  fancy, but posh casual, budget friendly afternoon wedding looks with dresses that you can wear also for other occasions.

When you are dressing for a civil wedding in the afternoon, the above suggested looks would be too fancy as well. Typically, civil weddings ask for festive business casual attire or a festive dress.

Is the event during the cold season? Then check also what to wear to a winter wedding.


Are you looking for outfit suggestions for all kind of dressing situation in midlife? Then my book How to Dress for Success in Midlife will be right for you. Buy the book now


Photos: G. Kramm

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